From the Curator: What is interpretation and meaning-making?

Interpretation within the museum setting comes from a complex chain of connections created between the museum, the collection and the audience.  This chain of connection, if correctly assembled, should facilitate the understanding of the audience and support the formative actions of meaning-making.

This interpretive system is not based upon the passive transmission view of communication, but states that learning is maintained through active engagement with the object, stimulated by the informative text provided by the museum curator and guided by the level of existing knowledge held by the audience.

An example of interpretation and meaning-making:

When viewing a piece of Roman pottery, for example, the information supplied by the museum curator may include the date of manufacture, what the pottery was used for or where it came from.  In addition to this, the existing knowledge of the audience might include  details from Roman history, Roman mythology, archaeology, pottery in general or even current popular media such as ‘Time Team’ or or the movie ‘Gladiator’.  Therefore the museum audience employs a circular ‘question-and-answer’ system of meaning-making that is sited within the knowledge and culture of the viewer, aided by the informative text provided by the museum curator.